A group of local farmers, ranchers, food professionals and government representatives gathered at the Bainbridge Island Grange Hall on January 5 for the third in a series of Local Food Roundtables. The focus of this session was on Processing, the second element of the local food system.
Charlotte Garrido, Kitsap County Commissioner, spoke to the group about food-related priorities and initiatives in Kitsap County.
* According to Charlotte, less than 1% of the food consumed in Kitsap County is sourced locally.
* In difficult financial times, one way to save money is to pay attention to the energy costs related to food.
* The County is working on several initiatives to support local food production and distribution, and reduce energy use in agriculture:
o The Kitsap Food Chain, created under the direction of the County Commissioners in 2010, brings together farmers and food-related businesses, consumers, non-profits and local government to help build a sustainable food system in the County.
o The agriculture component of the Comprehensive Plan is being updated to codify the County's goals relating to food, based on recommendations from the Food Chain group.
o Shannon Harkness from WSU and the Food Chain said that the Comp Plan updates have the flexibility to respond to new priorities.
o The Food Chain received a grant to write a Farmland Preservation Plan.
o Another grant will help reduce agriculture's carbon footprint in the County (and was used in part to purchase a no-till drill).
o Garrido stressed that input from the food community was needed to help the county Commissioners "push the envelope." "We can create a healthier way of thinking about food locally," she said.
* Energy Audits: The County has funding to do energy audits of food producers, processors, composters and distributors.
o The County will complete 10 such audits
o The County and PSE will then subsidize upgrades and purchase equipment recommended in the audits.
* No-Till Drill: Another initiative to reduce the environmental and carbon impact of agriculture is the County's acquisition of a no-till drill, which reduces soil erosion and fuel consumption.
o The County will rent the drill to producers, and train them how to use it.
o Interested producers should call the County WSU Extension office for details.
Cottage Food Law
Carolyn Goodwin of Sound Food did a brief update on the status of the Cottage Food Law, which will allow small producers to sell food made in their home kitchens. The new legislation is currently going through the Rules process at the Dept. of Ag.
* Draft rules should be available in January
* Public hearings will be held in early spring
* Applications and kitchen inspections will begin shortly afterward
* The goal is that the law will go into effect prior to the start of the summer Farmers Markets.
* Those interested in becoming Cottage Food producers should write to
to be added to the list for updates.
* More information on the new law and updates about status can be accessed on the Washington State Cottage Food Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-State-Cottage-Food/212823708752853
The group was asked to discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing farmers on Bainbridge Island and in the rest of Kitsap County related to food processing.
* Allowed uses: Marilyn Holt (Abundantly Green Farm and Kitsap Food Chain) said that one example of new policies needed was to clarify whether producers can do processing and warehousing on their farm properties.
* Dairy: Also needed are large-scale milk processing facilities for cheese making.
o There are currently 5 dairies in Kitsap: Port Madison and Hansville (goat) and Hillcrest, Blackjack Valley and Fernwood (cow)
o Cheese and ice cream are both great value-added products, but require specialized facilities that don't currently exist in the county.
* Regulatory hurdles: Several participants commented that the regulatory aspect is the biggest stumbling block to starting a small food-related business.
* A Business Incubator would be a valuable addition to any new processing facility.
o People and resources to help new producers navigate the regulatory and marketing challenges.
o Classes, counselors, mentors to help small businesses succeed.
* Business and food processing classes: WSU Extension resources for small farms and food producers
o Shannon Harkness teaches food processing classes through the Kitsap WSU Extensio
* Processing can extend harvest and reduce waste
o Betsey Wittick (Laughing Crow Farm) said that her entire onion crop was lost due to splitting. If she had been able to quickly turn them into a value-added product they would not have been wasted.
o Large squash are more easily sold in chunks - but the cutting can only be done in a commercial kitchen.
* Commercial Kitchens: the consensus of the group was that there was a need for more commercial kitchen facilities in the county.
o Existing Commercial Kitchen facilities at Farm Kitchen
, Evergreen Kitchen in Bremerton, Carter's Chocolate
and also at local Elks and Eagles facilities.
o Some schools may have rentable kitchens - Jon Garfunkel (Global Source) mentions Sakai and Woodward schools on Bainbridge (contact Patty Rounsley).
o The Health Department has a list of all commercial kitchens in the county, but doesn't indicate which are rentable.
o Churches have commercial kitchens, but can't rent them out to for-profit businesses without losing tax-exempt status.
* Individual commercial kitchens: Nancy Fortner (Sweetlife Farm) said that they created a licensed kitchen on their property for approximately $2,000.
o The biggest hurdles to this are water and septic - the regulations are geared toward city water and sewers. The Fortners are on a well and septic, but don't use their own water in their processing -- they use bottled water if needed.
* Commercial kitchen opportunities:
o Bremerton: Shannon Harkness spoke of the Eagles Nest, a space above the Parks and Recreation office within the Fairgrounds in Bremerton. It already has quite a bit of equipment (dishwasher, sink), but no stove or oven. She believes it could be made into a usable commercial kitchen with minimal investment.
o Bainbridge Island:
- Wendy Tyner of Friends of the Farms has been approached by an individual who has 5 acres and a barn, and is thinking of creating a commercial kitchen on the property.
- Another individual has spoken of a plan to open a rentable and fully equipped commercial space in the Day Road complex.
- The group mentioned the Day Road Farmland as the ideal site for a commercial kitchen/warehousing/distribution facility.
- A commercial kitchen is included in early plans for the renovations at Rotary Park.
* Co-packing ("jobbers"): Nancy Fortner introduced the idea of utilizing co-packers who would do contract processing for local producers. This idea was met with a great deal of interest from the group.
o For example - Betsey could have taken her split onions to a co-packer who could process them into onion marmalade and package the product in their own commercial facilities.
o Co-packers can help with recipe formulation, testing, package design, distribution.
* Large animal Meat Processing: The group agreed that this was another major gap in the local food chain
o Mobile slaughter unit: The new mobile slaughter unit operates in Port Orchard 3 days/week.
o The unit operates in Port Orchard because it requires a concrete slab, as well as specific water and wastewater facilities.
o If an appropriate location was created elsewhere (Day Road Farmland?) the unit could operate in other locations in the county. A good contact would be Kitsap Conservation (Brian Stahl), which might be able to help fund the slab.
o The meat is slaughtered in this USDA facility, and then transported to another USDA facility for cut and wrap.
* Poultry Processing: Stuart Boyle of the Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative said that this group was created to help small poultry producers get started, more info at http://www.kitsappoultry.com/
o Minder Meats
is the closest cut and wrap facility. Diane Fish (WSU Ext) spoke highly of their services.
o Currently the Co-op offers rentable poultry processing equipment to its members - but the resulting birds can only be sold on the farm. The use of this equipment has doubled in the past year.
o The Co-op is currently raising funds for a Mobile Processing Trailer that would allow larger numbers of birds to be processed on member farms in a way that would allow them to be sold off the farm.
o Stuart is pursuing grants and needs $25,000 to $30,000 of public or private funds to create the mobile unit.
* Local Food Processing facilities: The group spoke of the need for centralized food processing facility or facilities in the county.
o Such a facility should include: a commercial kitchen, warehousing and distribution facilities, and a business incubator component.
o Nikki Johanson (Pheasant Fields Farm) mentioned that Portland has a facility like this: the Food Innovation Center
o Charlotte Garrido said that the County would be willing to partner with any entity or entities interested in creating such a facility.
* Buy Local campaign: participants mentioned the need for a coordinated Buy Local campaign in the county. There will be a meeting on this topic on Tuesday, January 17 in Bremerton. Details here: http://www.buylocalfoodinkitsap.org/
* Marci Burkel mentioned that 2012 has been designated as the International Year of Cooperatives, and suggested that a cooperative model be considered in some area of the local food system.
* Create work group to look into the potential of co-packing as a processing solution.
* Pursue the creation of additional sites for the mobile slaughter unit in Kitsap.
* Follow up on potential for additional commercial kitchen spaces
* Research the potential for creating a food processing, warehousing and distribution center in Kitsap.
* Work to create a "Buy Local Food" campaign throughout the County.
* The next Roundtable topic is Distribution and Access. The meeting will be on Thursday February 2 at 7pm at the Bainbridge Grange Hall.